Nightmares On Wax bring their laid back vibes to the Invisible Wind Factory, although Getintothis’ Banjo doesn’t quite feel them.
There is an incident that happened to me as a young boy. In fact, incident is probably too strong a word, an event maybe. It was nothing traumatic, there has been no emotional fallout from this and no concern caused. But tonight I am reminded of this event.
One evening when my age was still in single digits, I watched the TV with my family. I can’t remember what was on, something that no doubt fell into that category of light entertainment. Everyone around me was laughing in the appropriate places, as if it all made sense to them. In fact as if it more than made sense. I was aware, even at such a young age that they somehow got it. All was as it should be with this programme and that was a good thing.
Except I didn’t get it. I didn’t find it funny and didn’t understand how or why those around me did.
Tonight, Nightmares on Wax made me feel like that again.
But before I delve further into this, let us look at the rest of tonight’s bill at the Invisible Wind Factory.
The night started off with MC Nelson, a local talent we at Getintothis have rightly championed before. Nelson seems like a perfect opener for Nightmares on Wax, providing smoky jazz-based loops, over which his lyrics flow.
He already has a fan base, as people are grooving, watching and listening stage front, making a most empty Invisisble Wind Factory seem like a party has started.
MC Nelson was left a miniscule amount of stage space on which to operate, with two drumkits and Nightmares on Wax’s stage show taking up most of the performance area, but he prowls and patrols his space, making the most of what he has been given, despite nearly falling over a coffee table on a few occasions.
His rhymes flow thick and fast and hit hard. MC Nelson only had a short set tonight, but one that leaves me wanting to see more of this gifted and charismatic individual.
Next up is Hector Plimmer. There are two people on stage, one of whom I presume is the man himself, unless the name Hector Plimmer is some sort of gestalt title and what we have is one person named Hector and another who finds himself saddled with the unusual and unfortunate name of Plimmer.
If this is indeed the case, poor old Plimmer should think himself fortunate he never went to the same school as me with a name like that.
We are then treated to a set of two halves. The first comprising an instrumental drums and keyboards section that starts off well enough, but quickly descends to such levels of syncopated drum fills and keyboard noodling that I fear that the Prog revival is upon us, and nobody wants that.
The second half of the set is an improvement. A vocalist is brought on to add to the songs, and this seems to add some more structure and limit the feel of improvisation that hung heavily over the previous instrumentals. Nevertheless, Hector Plimmer come across as more of a hobby band than serious contenders.
Nightmares on Wax have walked an unusual path since their days as early 90s chillout favourites.
Starting life as a DJ outfit, mixing and matching hip hop beats with anything that caught their magpie eye, they soon started making music, mashing it up with dub, metal and even goth, commenting ‘We wanted to do tracks that had hip hop beats but experimented with ideas’
Since then, they have released 8 albums, mostly on Warp records, with Smoker’s Delight and Carboot Soul attracting a good amount of attention and sales. These two albums redefined NoW, moving them from sub bass rumblings and into a lighter trip hop sound, something they have been developing since then.
Nightmares on Wax are now essentially founder member George Evelyn and a fluctuating cast of musicians joining him for albums and tours. (Thought – does this make George Evelyn the Mark E Smith of trip hop?)
But tonight, Nightmares on Wax leave me cold. Literally so, as I am stood in a huge warehouse one on of the coldest nights of the winter with little or nothing to stir me into dancing.
Again we have essentially a drums, keyboards and vocals set up, but the sound from Evelyn’s keyboard set up is quiet and thin. It doesn’t seem that Evelyn himself knows this, as he nods his head in time to a beat that only he can hear at the show’s start. Maybe this is a set that builds I think to myself, maybe this is just the beginning of a journey.
But mid-tempo number follows mid-tempo number. There is no journey, no build up and it all feels a bit flat and one-paced.
The stage setup doesn’t really help to be honest. A sofa flanked by two buttoned leather chairs gives the impression of looking at somebody’s front room. Evelyn sits at the sofa with keyboards and effects on the coffee table in front of him, while vocalists wander on and off stage as required, sitting in the two chairs when they do so.
The whole thing looks like a well equipped jam session in somebody’s front room. Now while this would be a wonderful and enjoyable thing to take part in, it doesn’t particularly make for great entertainment. People occasionally get up from their seated positions for a while, before returning to their chairs or walking off stage, but this does not result in a dynamic stage show.
The stage banter and audience participation is limited to the ‘Liverpool, how are you feeling?’ variety, which does little to add any sense of spectacle to the show. Especially when it is repeated after every other song.
My mind wanders and I look around me. People are dancing, waving their arms in the air and displaying all the signs of being at a great party, rather than a front room jam. Then it hits me. They get it. They get it and I don’t. Once again I am reminded of how it feels to not get something that other people seem to be enjoying a great deal.
Now I am quite prepared to believe that this is some kind of fault in me rather than any form of shortcoming in those happy souls who are whooping it up on the dancefloor, but again I am left wondering what it is that other people see in something that to me seems unremarkable and even a little dull.
To those people I apologise for coming across as a miserable party spoiler. I wish I wasn’t, I wish I was able to wring as much enjoyment out of the night‘s proceedings as you are, but I just couldn’t.
I would possibly enjoy this if I were listening to it in the wee small hours after a full on club session, but as a Friday night’s main attraction, it all seemed too little too early.
‘Liverpool, how are you feeling?’ Underwhelmed to be honest.
Images by Getintothis’ Kevin Barrett